Swedish Gambling Authority Surprised at Operators Appealing Fines

  • Sweden's regulatory body has issued fines totaling SEK120m ($12.5m) in 2019
  • Operators believe laws are confusing, especially around marketing efforts
  • Success in court for operators challenging the issuance of shorter licenses
flag of Sweden in Gothenburg
Despite Spelinspektionen issuing 18 fines in 2019, only Aland-based operator Paf has paid its fine in full. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Only one paid up so far

2019 has been a busy year for the Spelinspektionen, Sweden’s gambling regulatory body. Spelinspektionen has dished out 18 fines since the turn of the year, but according to new data released by the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA), only one company has paid its fine to date. The rest have chosen to appeal.

Spelinspektionen has dished out 18 fines since the turn of the year

The only operator to pay its fine was Paf. The Aland-based operator was the recipient of the smallest fine handed out this year. Paf decided to pay its SEK100,000 ($10,505) fine in full after being found guilty of allowing gamblers to make bets on their site, despite signing a self-exclusion policy.

Taking the regulator to court

Meanwhile, the other 17 licensees who have been fined so far this year are all challenging their penalties and will take the regulator to court.

Industry insiders have said that with so many new online gambling regulations involved, particularly those around advertising, that many of the fines relate to practices that were too vague to stand up in court.

The regulatory body has issued fines totaling SEK120m ($12.5m) and revoked the license of Global Gaming’s 555 Ninja brand since January. There are currently 94 operators in possession of active Swedish licenses and 67 for online operations.

This pushback from operators to take the Spelinspektionen to court has caused much confusion. Director-General Camilla Rosenberg said she was

a little bit surprised that they think so much is unclear.”

She went on to say that the government does not share the industry’s opinion when it comes to the clarity of the new gambling rules.

Success for license holders

Some of those fined have already had success in the courts. They are challenging licenses being granted that are less than the five-year term they applied for.

For example, VideoSlots was initially awarded a two-year license after being fined by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for gaps in their anti-money laundering and social responsibility controls in November 2018.

However, a court last week ruled that fines from overseas should not be taken into account by the Spelinspektionen and that the regulator “had not been consistent in its licensing”. The ruling stated that “several companies that have been granted five-year licenses [that] have been sentenced to pay fines abroad”. CherryAB and LeoVegas have also received similar rulings.

Approving the appeal, it has been ruled that the license period for VideoSlots will now cover January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2023. Spelinspektionen has said that it does not intend to appeal the ruling.

Bet365, Betsson, AB Trav och Galopp, and Kindred Group have also had their penalties overturned after allowing betting on events that featured underage players.

Spelinspektionen responds

Even with operators challenging the regulator through the court’s licenses are still being approved the body, as gambling in Sweden improves on a quarterly basis. It was only last week that a license was issued to Avento MT Ltd for its Frank Casino and Slot TV online casino brands.

the largest penalty imposed this year has been SEK19m ($2m) to Betsson’s Nordic Gaming Group

So far, the largest penalty imposed out this year has been SEK19m ($2m) to Betsson’s Nordic Gaming Group, after repeatedly offering players a single bonus upon registering.

In a response the Spelinspektionen said: “If there is uncertainty about parts of the legislation, we recommend that the companies choose the safe alternative and do not risk violating the law.”